Beyond “How was your day?”: Getting kids to talk about their school day

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My daughter started kindergarten about a month ago. Naturally, the start of school brought with it some changes into our lives. One adjustment for me has been trying to learn about her day. For whatever reason, kids like to keep what goes on at school a mystery. Our after school dialogue would go something like this:

Mom: Hi! How as your day at school today?

E: Good.

Mom: Well, what did you do?

E: Nothing.

Mom: Nothing? Really??

E:  I forget.

North Valley Moms Blog - Beyond How was your day Getting kids to

Clearly, this isn’t going to work for Mama! I can not do a 180 from knowing EVERY detail of her day to knowing next to nothing!

Open communication with her is very important to me; I need her to know she can tell me what is going on in her life and at school. Here is what we have tried to keep the discussion going and avoid those dreaded one word answers.

After school, we have a snack and do homework. After that’s done, I sit down with her and we color together. While we are doing this, we talk about her day. I ask her specific questions such as ” Who did you sit with at lunch?”, “What did you do at recess?”, “What was your favorite part of the day?”, “What made you happy today?”, “What is the messiest thing you did at school today?”. I also don’t shy away from questions like “What’s the worst thing that happened today?” or “What made you sad or angry today?”. Before school I also ask her to remember one specific thing during the day  that she can share with me later. I tell her I will do the same thing during my day. If I know of something specific that is going to happen at school through the newsletter or calendar, I will ask her about that. If I know, for example, it was Specials Day, I will ask her about what they did in PE or Art. I will ask her to show me the latest sign they learned in Sign Language.  Even if I know the answers to these questions, I ask them anyway.

Sometimes it still does take a while to get much information out of her but she is getting to where she will open up a bit more with me. Sitting down to color with her at the end of the day gives us a quiet activity to do together. It allows us to talk and wind down. It doesn’t have to be for long; often it’s just 10 minutes of my time. But it’s an activity she loves and she knows she has my undivided attention during that time.  It’s become a ritual for us, and it’s one that I love.

Of course, if you want to implement something like this into your day it doesn’t have to be coloring; not every kid is into that. So choose something your child and you can do together. Maybe it’s playing with legos, taking a walk, putting together a puzzle, drawing or painting, polishing  your nails or playing with play doh. Just setting aside ten minutes or so of one on one time makes a difference.

Do you have any tips on getting kids to talk about their school day? What works for you? Please let us know in the comments!

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Eileen has been married to her husband, Eric, an Air Force officer, since 1998. A pharmacist by trade, she worked that gig for ten years until her promotion to full time stay-at-home mom in 2009. Eileen and Eric have one daughter, Little E, who is a feisty little girl obsessed with Octonauts. As a military family, they move every 3-4 years, most recently from Southern Virginia to Arizona. They have lived in the Phoenix area since July 2012 and love the southwest! Hopefully they have found their “forever” home. Eileen’s passions and hobbies include photography, reading, travel, cooking, doing creative projects with her daughter, hiking and working out. She can often be found sipping a latte at Starbucks, looking for the next great read at Barnes and Noble, or browsing Ulta for the latest beauty find.

6 COMMENTS

  1. This is so super important and I love your ideas and tips, especially taking the time to do something each day just the two of you. Something I am struggling with… with my now 13 year old son!

  2. This is great. Thanks so much! What a great mama you are.
    We do “highs” and “lows” of everyone’s day at dinner. A tradition I hope continues on through high school.

  3. Getting kids to open up is hard. Great post to start helping parents think of ways to do this. We do “highs” and “lows” of the day. Also, we have set a timer for say like 1 min. and everyone gets a turn.

  4. I need to be better about this. I ask my daughter in pre-k what she did in school and she always answers with “played.” Thank you for sharing your specific questions!

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